My month-long trip to Cape Town had started to come to a bittersweet end. While I got a taste of what South Africa had to offer, that brief glimpse into the country left me severely hungering for more. It was almost the holiday season and I had a non-refundable flight booked back to Europe. I should go home… but I just couldn’t shake the restless feeling that I should stay in South Africa.
I anxiously mulled over my options of what to do until the evening of December 11th came and passed. A flight to Barcelona left Cape Town’s international airport. There was at least one empty seat on that flight. Instead of catching the flight, I was sitting on the beach at Camp’s Bay watching the sun set on an impulse decision that I felt was the right move. Next time I would see the sun, it would mark a bright but uncertain beginning of a new adventure.
There. It happened. I purposely missed my flight and left myself stranded in South Africa with nothing more than a backpack and a travel bug. A solo traveler through and through, I bask in the freedom of crafting my own itineraries. But unfortunately, you are often restricted by a couple of things. Transportation is one of those things. This is where the Baz Bus comes in.
Serendipity would have it that later that same evening, I would get an email from Baz Bus about a potential collaboration. It was in response to a completely unrelated inquiry about some third-party tour operator but I took it as a sign that I made the right choice to stay in South Africa. Things were falling into place and my carefree mantra of go with the flow was gently leading me to promising shores.
A month later, I hopped off my final Baz Bus ride in the bustling city of Johannesburg. I had nearly covered 3,000 kilometers, from cosmopolitan Cape Town to the glistening beaches of Plettenberg Bay, from the violent coastline of Coffee Bay to the rugged mountains of Drakensberg and beyond. It was an adventure unlike any other I’ve ever had, making those three epic months fly by like it was nothing at all.
Having spent my first month in Cape Town on a month-long social media work commitment with the same fifteen people day-in and day-out, meeting new people right away was a big priority for me. I have solo traveled for the better part of the last three years and I’ve come to find out the first thing you need to do once you take the first step on a new adventure is to meet people.
My first time hopping on the Baz Bus was in Cape Town. I was riding all the way to Wilderness, one of the first major stops along the Garden Route. The morning pickup at around 7 AM left most of us early birds yearning for a little bit more sleep.
However, it didn’t take long at all before the bus was buzzing with new faces and conversations from the diverse mix of polyglot passengers. Germans, Belgians, Spaniards and others started filling up the fuzzy blue seats of the Baz Bus. The conversations started flowing and it started becoming evident that I had made the right choice.
From holidayers to volunteers to long-term backpackers, each person had their own different story to tell and experiences to relate to.
“Oh, you’re from the Philippines? I need to tell you this story of a $4 tattoo I got in the Philippines.”
“I am actually currently volunteering as a teacher in the townships of Cape Town for a year.”
“Me? Yeah, I just got done working at a giraffe sanctuary for a few weeks. No big deal.“
I mean, these things were totally a big deal. You meet any one of these people back home and they would automatically be the coolest person you know. In South Africa, it’s just another casual ride on the Baz Bus. The conversations get deeper and more personal as the boundaries and barriers quickly melt. Travelers have a way of holding nothing too personal and that makes everything just a little more exciting.
The bus rides fly by and each person hopping off stings a little bit inside as you realize that the once daunting bus ride might actually not be long enough at all. You exchange your contact information with each passing person, though the odds are in your favor that you will likely run into them again along the road. Every time you hop on the Baz Bus, there is a sea of new friends to choose from and as welcoming of a community as you could ask for.
And every time you hop off, there’s a pretty solid chance that you’ll have a new friend or two hopping off with you. The Baz Bus drops you off right at your hostel or hotel if you pick one of the many on their accommodation list, so the odds are you’ll have someone joining you.
There are few things as intimidating as taking on a new hostel as a solo traveler. No matter how many times I’ve walked into a hostel alone, there is always that slight fear that you’ll end up the odd one out in a bustling community of seemingly solidified friend groups. It is often overlooked just how crucial and relieving it is to see familiar faces when walking into a sea of strangers.
The Baz Bus can almost serve as like a pre-hostel social session if you need it to. Eventually, you’ll see familiar faces almost everywhere you go. After all, most people you meet on the Baz Bus are going the same way as you and to the same places. While each of your schedules may vary, it is inevitable that you stumble into a few of the same people along the way. I got to Jeffrey’s Bay on the last leg of my Garden Route adventure and ended up spending Christmas with people I met nearly every stop of the way.
Not going to lie, there were a few tears shed when Leonie and Vivian, the first two girls I met on the Baz Bus also happened to be the last two people on the Baz Bus as we closed in on Port Elizabeth. It was a bittersweet way of my Garden Route adventure coming full circle.
For solo travelers, I can’t imagine a better option than the Baz Bus to take on a country. It combines the functionality of convenient transportation with a community that allows you to make new friends and draw information (and laughs) from their individual experiences. It is a cozy, close-knit environment that welcomes people from all walks of life. I’ve had meaningful conversations with anyone and everyone who steps onto the bus, from the fresh-faced 18-year old volunteer to the glowing Golden Girl in her 70s with a multitude of stories to share.
I’ve met so many unique characters on the Baz Bus. In hindsight, it seems almost impossible for so many differing personalities from different backgrounds could come together to make something as simple as a bus ride more than just that. You meet people you wouldn’t normally meet and you become friends with people you wouldn’t normally befriend.
For a transportation company to create a community and a family is something that I have never encountered in my three years of traveling. The Baz Bus goes above and beyond simply just a way to get from place to place. It can’t be overstated just how much value you can get out of the Baz Bus beyond simply a transportation option.
I am currently in Bali and one of my close friends from my Baz Bus adventures is in Thailand. We’ve been coordinating a plan to meet up again. You can’t put a price on friendships like that. Our only complaint is that there isn’t a Baz Bus in South East Asia.